George Lucas Announces Newest Social Media Platform: Hollowgram

Not wanting to be left behind the latest social media craze-du-jour, George Lucas has announced the first social platform allowing users to upload 3-D speaking holographic images of themselves.

Called “Hollowgram,” this ground-breaking site will allow hollow people everywhere to upload every detail of their lives in glorious 3-D. Lucas hopes to capitalize on all the momentum surrounding Pinterest, which enables posting of static, legacy, 2-D, lifeless stuff for others to waste time browsing using so-last-century technology.

“Look, we’ve all known since 1977, when the first Star Wars was released, that 3-D holographic imagery was the wave of the future. I’ve waited all this time – through IRC, bulletin boards, AOL, MySpace, Facebook, and Instagram – until the marketplace was ready. It was tough to see all these precursors, but Hollowgram – it’s our only hope to save social media,” said Lucas in an exclusive Q&A interview via Quora.

Hollowers, as users of the site will be called, will soon be able to download the Hollowgram app for iOS, Android, DOS, and Windows 95. A FAX version is in the works. Once installed, a user simply activates Hollowgram, and the fascinating details of their every action and word are streamed in real-time for others too hollow to follow.

Hollowgram will be ad-supported, with non-intrusive product placements carefully projected into the real-time imagery.

A visit to the BETA site showed the simplest and most elegant interface imaginable – one button that the user presses. Currently, the only hologram is of Princess Leia asking some old wizard for help, which plays over and over again. It actually looks like she’s in trouble. “But that’s part of the dramatic energy of our pending launch,” said Lucas. “What better storyline arc could we ask for than a social platform that helps defeat the evil empire? Which, of course, is Google+.”

Not to be outdone, Disney is preparing their own platform, code-named Goofi, which will allow users to share their own 2-hour full-featured animated cartoons with each other over dial-up service.

[disclaimer for the less-discerning - yes, this is a spoof. You can't download Hollowgram from the app store]

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Search My World with Google – so what?

So, Google has now introduced a new feature in search, whereby you not only search the public web, but can view results from your Google+ network.

Good on ‘em. I hope they keep experimenting, keep evolving. Some stuff Google has tried has failed; other approaches have taken off. Google’s DNA has this feature: no status quo. Push forward.

This new feature  will stick if it provides long-term value. If not, they can just turn it off (and you do have a show/hide switch to toggle if you wish).

People may be tempted to moan that Google is monkeying with their main “search” brand by introducing personal results. But Google isn’t primarily a search engine anymore. They’re an information, aggregation, communication, and experimentation company.

Keep pushing the envelope, Google.

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Purpose-built Networks

The initial social media gold rush is about over.

Remember the exuberant early days of the e-commerce and portal bubble, and the huge paydays attained by some first movers? Then it all shook out, and we settled down to business.

Now, with social media, we have these big, broad, public networks (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) sprawled all over the web, enabling people to make connections and share stuff – which is great. I’m all in, and have been for five years. However…

…as with any shiny new toy, the first-movers have made their big bucks. The new platform-creators, the evangelists, the top bloggers, the book authors – those in the vanguard have broken the fresh ground and social media is now moving into mainstream adoption. As it should.

These big, unfocused networks have some major limitations for serious business use, however. So, I’m thinking that the next high-impact evolution will be purpose-built, purpose-driven networks. Especially for business.

While we love the idea of the public social web, a whole lot of business communication goes on in smaller rooms. Controlled environments. And large swaths of business networking/communications have to be regulated (particularly in pharma, where I do a lot of my work). In fact, while I do a lot of public networking in the pharma space through my company Impactiviti, most of the significant business happens through private communications in a purpose-built trust network. That’s not really going to change for me, or for many other businesses. The wide-open social web is not a panacea – because often, the real business need is for targeted communications that have some business rules around them.

Social-media-style digital networked communications is great for individuals, and has huge potential for some kinds of more retail business. But it’s not optimal for everything. Much of the potential of social technologies will reside behind firewalls and in digital networks that are purposefully designed with business purposes in mind. Think about it – was Facebook, or Twitter, specifically designed for business? Um – no. We’re just trying to adapt them. And, truth be told, it’s often a bit of a mismatch.

The company that’s in the best position to deliver on this is Google. They have all the tools, many of which are growing up into enterprise level. Google Plus gives us a glimpse of private, multi-media selective communications with Circles and Hangouts. What we need is a platform that allows companies to naturally build their (multiple) networks with (multiple) different purposes according to the business rules and goals that apply to those groups. A platform that truly integrates voice, text, video, search, filtered layers of intimacy, real-time and asynchronous comms – and Google has all the pieces. With the cloud-based infrastructure to back it.

Apple will give them a run for their money. Because they have started with the user experience and nice integration, and thus built a lot of momentum. But they need to make the leap into business-focused networking. Microsoft – sigh. All the infrastructure, but so much legacy baggage – I don’t know.

These Lego blocks that we’re playing with now are cool. They are great for the individual experience, and for public exposure. But whoever cracks the purpose-built networking nut will find the real gold. Who do you think will win this race?

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Microsoft Announces Minus, New Social Network for Pharma

While high-profile social networks like Facebook and Google+ have recently made splashy announcements to try to gain the attention of the masses, Microsoft has been quietly, and brilliantly, working on a new social network custom-designed for pharma.

Steve Woodruff, the Pharmaceutical Connection Agent, was given an exclusive sneak peak at the platform, dubbed Minus, which is being launched today to a beta audience of one pharma company, one patient, and 25 lawyers. While detailed screen shots were not yet approved by Regulatory, a mockup of the interface was obtained, showing the sensitivity of Microsoft designers to the constraints of pharmaceutical industry communications. (click to biggify —>)

Steve Ballmer, President of Microsoft, beamed as he read a carefully prepared and vetted statement to members of the press, who were not allowed to ask questions or engage in dialogue during the announcement. “Here at Microsoft, we understand legacy systems, bureaucracy, and the need to consider the past when developing for the future. That’s why we’re the ideal partner for the pharmaceutical industry to create a social platform that will reflect how controlled, one-way, non-interactive communications can occur in this modern world of digital networks. This is what social media is all about – MINUS all that social stuff.

“Now, please view these 17 slides of disclaimers, safety warnings, software contraindications, and approved uses for Minus.”

The announcement was hailed as a great advancement for an industry dogged by difficulties participating in the public, free-wheeling world of social networks. “For years, we’ve struggled with how to communicate with the public in a safe, controlled manner that will keep us out of trouble,” said one VP of Marketing, whose identity could not be revealed due to privacy concerns. “Now, we can get our messages out there on the Twitter and the Facebook by using this Minus thing to…to…say more stuff. You know, join the conversation.”

While it wasn’t yet clear who exactly would participate on the Minus platform, this was viewed as no barrier to adoption. “We’ll just pull a Google+ on everyone and make it limited rollout for everyone in pharma who has a Klout score of 82 and above, or who has a value of 1,000 or more on Empire Avenue,” explained Ballmer. “That ought to get us to critical mass in no time.”

To appeal to its target audience, Microsoft enlisted the avatar of ancient Uncle Sam Wilson as the key figure in its marketing campaign. “Old Sam had just the right look-and-feel that we wanted to accelerate uptake of the platform,” said VP of Minus Biz Dev Sam Wilson IV. “Doesn’t he just exude social control?”

Addressing the thorny issue of user-generated content in a regulated environment, Ballmer scoffed, “UGC is so 2009. We’re looking to the future by hearkening to the past. Remember the good old days of DOS? Guess what computing kernel powers Minus?”

Reporters were encouraged to submit questions via an analog “Suggestion Box,” all of which would be reviewed by an approval committee and selectively answered within 3 weeks via a special Minus application using U.S. Mail.

(please do not tweet or share this link without prior authorization from a qualified lawyer. Any harm that comes from using this blog post in a way that it was not intended must be immediately reported to proper authorities. 9 out of 10 regulators surveyed approved this message)

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Why Google+ Could Succeed

Google has begun rolling out its latest iteration of a social network, Google+. It’s getting plenty of press in the blogosphere, with a wide variety of opinions (great start; Facebook me-too late in the game; meh-be; etc.)

Here’s my take on why it could be a winner – our current social networks are dumb.

You heard me. Dumb. Google+ is showing some potential smarts.

Not to say that Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and the like are poorly designed, or that there aren’t really smart people behind them. And certainly not to say that those of us using these networks are dumb for doing so. Not at all. These platforms are a good start, and it’s very smart to be involved with digital networked communications.

But these initial tools are baby rattles, compared to the sophistication we really need.

I’m going to point you back three years, to the series I wrote on the ideal social media/web interface (One Interface to Rule Them All <– the link is to the first of 7 posts). There, I outlined how we need smart platforms that would do things like layering (Google+ Circles),  automated finding via Intell-Agents (Google+ Sparks); and, last year, I had a hankering for real-time private rooms (Google+ Hangouts).

The need is for far better ability to classify, stratify, find (not just search), and control. Google+ is heading in that direction, and that is why it could take on platforms that do a more “brute-force” job of connecting and publishing. And make no mistake – current social platforms are still quite “dumb” on the brute-force level. They give us a bigger and bigger fire hose with only the most rudimentary ways to manage it all.

If  Google+ evolves with simple elegance and solid integration, our brilliant friends at Google have a great shot at a next-gen platform.

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There’s a Bumble in the Jumble

The announcement just came out that a new iPhone competitor, the G1 (using Google’s Android software), is about to be unleashed on the world. And this will be a coming-out party of sorts, not only for this branch of Google, but also for a contract phone manufacturer trying to make a name for itself.

Too bad they have such a memorable “name”. HTC. Blecch.

Why do companies do this to themselves? Why use obscure acronyms that simply blend into the background, and that stand out about as much as a single seed in a birdfeeder?

Effective marketing means, in part, providing a hook into the minds, memories, and imaginations of customers. And jumbles of letters and numbers are utterly self-defeating.

Just for fun, I scanned yesterday’s Wall Street Journal to gather some company/brand names that are designed to be forgotten:

CNG (Compressed Natural Gas)

CME Group (trading exchange)

CSC (technology resources)

TMI (executive recruting)

ELS (educational services)

If you’ve managed, through longevity and market penetration, to create a brand around an acronym (IBM, GM, A&P, etc.) that’s one thing. But if you want to stand out and be memorable, what is going to stick more in people’s minds – a well-crafted name, or a jumble? If you were investing, would you more easily remember a name like Fidelity (a word with actual, relevant meaning), or something like “ABX Resources”?

Companies and products should not be named by non-marketers and engineers. If I’m buying a LCD projector, I should not have to knot my tongue over a name like Panasonic PT-DW10000U. It’s a bumble to market a jumble, and a needless barrier to success.

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One Interface to Rule them All (part 1)

I’m on a quest (as I’m sure many others are) for the One Gold Ring – a single interface that will be my functional portal into the web. Right now, I go to too many places (iGoogle, Yahoo Mail, Google Reader, Flickr, Pageflakes, WordPress, Twitter, Plurk, Amazon, eBay, etc., etc., etc.) to “do web stuff,” and the fragmentation of these services is inefficient and frustrating.

For many years, I’ve mulled over ideal software interface designs, and have an electronic trail of litter behind me consisting of many boxes and flow diagrams exquisitely mapped out in…well, Powerpoint. In a prior post, I tossed out some very early-on concepts for an ideal social media interface. But the holy grail for me is much larger – I want to see a meta-interface that helps me conduct most of my on-line life.

Why do we need this? Well, fundamentally, the tools we used were designed only to fulfill specific purposes. They weren’t designed for me, to pull my life together, but to do one or two things. However, I don’t need another gardener or cook or chauffeur. I need a Chief of Staff. For a throwaway branding term, I’m going to call it MetaMee – because it’s about me.

What would this MetaMee interface be like? Here’s my highest level list:

    MetaMee would consolidate the main functional activities I have on the web into one simple interface.
    MetaMee would be a hybrid off-line/on-line system, built in part using Adobe Air or Google Gears or similar.
    MetaMee would allow storage and controlled release of varying levels of my information to different people/applications/businesses/other entities.
    MetaMee would talk to existing platforms (such as those listed above) in a widget-ized fashion.
    MetaMee would use intelligent bot/crawling technology to find, recommend, and deliver what I want, so that I spend less time searching.

How would this project get done? Here’s where it gets interesting. I’m not a programmer. And I know that there are tons of talented bloggers/socializers out there who are loaded with great ideas and talents far beyond mine. So I’m just going to put out a series of posts this month, outlining my preliminary ideas for this “dream” application, and invite all of you to discuss, refine, contribute, ideate…let’s see if we really mean what we say about social media. I think this app ought to be crowd-designed, and then someone will take the bull by the horns and start making it. Ready?

In the next day or two, I’ll post part 2 – the five main functions that I foresee in a MetaMee-type app.

Links to the entire One Interface to Rule them All series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

plus…The Ideal Social Media Interface

Related post: Share Media vs. Tell Media

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